Brown University President Christina Hull Paxon spews boilerplate rhetoric at the expense of athletics

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© Copyright – 2020 – Athletics Illustrated

As the corporate world demonstrates every day, putting an accountant, CFO, controller-type, in charge of a business or institution does not always work out for the best. Oftentimes the customer gets the shaft. Smaller packaging, cheaper delivery, weaker product. The mentality they typically work from is to make numbers add up on a P&L statement, which often results in the attempts to get more out of less and to see where customer tolerance stops the experiment.

It’s the proverbial tail wagging the dog. Customers go away when this happens. Chase the dollar and like trying to put your finger on mercury, it slips away. Create a great product in earnest, the money follows.

I once worked at a newspaper, an alternative newsweekly, that won many awards by publishing content that held the feet to the fire of culprits of apparent corporate and political malfeasance. Profits were tidy, rich investigative journalism made the paper the talk of the town. It was the source of truth. At least that was the intention of the hardworking editorial staff who led the way.

Not unlike the era when the publisher took over from the editor in the newspaper industry things began to fall apart for news publishing. It happened sometime during the late 1970s, where content brought the readers, readers brought the distribution or circulation— the print run, which of course in-turn attracted the advertiser—profits were a thing.

Sure, the internet came along and killed much of the newspaper industry, but that was decades later.

Brown University has a PhD in Economics running the show, Christina Hull Paxson. She is the 19th president and an apparent public health expert.

Constant Reader: You and I both know that athletics (running and field events) is valuable in the well being of the human condition, as many of the competitive events stem from primal human movements. Athletics is the human superpower, physiologically-speaking. Endurance sports provide all sorts of physiological and psychological benefits including improving cognitive function, the science has proved it so.  A public health expert should know this.

As is oft said, “hire an athlete if you want to get stuff done” [paraphrasing a belief].

Paxon cut athletics from the varsity sports program.

“Effective immediately for the 2020-21 academic year, the University will transition 11 varsity teams to club status. Brown will cease training, competition and operations at the varsity level for men’s and women’s fencing; men’s and women’s golf; women’s skiing; men’s and women’s squash; women’s equestrian; and men’s track, field and cross country (which are three varsity sports under federal Title IX rules governing access to opportunities in sports),” a Brown University statement reads.

For runners and field events athletes, they need little in equipment and implements. For them, training never needs to stop.

As John L. Parker told us in the novel Once a Runner, runners do not need much. Someone to hold a stopwatch, a pair of runners and the freedom to pursue the trial of the miles. Other than travel, which could be cut to some degree, how much could Brown University really save in real-world, big university corporate-ness, by cutting the track and field and cross-country programs?

Paxon’s bio at Brown includes the following boilerplate, “In addition, Paxson has overseen consecutive record-setting years in philanthropic support for Brown. Growth in fundraising and investment has strengthened the University’s teaching and research with support for state-of-the-art facilities that include the Friedman Hall undergraduate teaching and learning building, the Engineering Research Center, expansion of the Watson Institute for Public and International Affairs, and spaces for research and study for data sciences, brain science, education, entrepreneurship, public health and other growing fields at Brown.”

The building of on-site, state-of-the-art facilities costs hundreds of millions of dollars. It appears that Brown is awash with money.

It could be argued that funds earmarked for sports carry their own budget and those budgets have been slashed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But that is rhetoric from the mouth of an economics-oriented shill—take that attitude to McDonald’s or Wal-Mart. At an educational institution, you are dealing with the development of future citizens of the world; dollars on a spreadsheet and complex human growth can not be correlated by wanting to justify sums.

The benefits of running the low-cost, high-return sport of athletics (track and field and cross-country) far outweigh the meagre savings supposedly brought by adjusting numbers on a spreadsheet to satisfy the bean counters.

“Through the new initiative, the University will maintain its current operational budget for varsity athletics, with operating funds made available by the reduction in varsity teams being allocated strategically within the Department of Athletics. Brown will continue to recruit the same number of varsity athletes so that rosters can be right-sized, and the smaller number of varsity teams will support stronger recruiting in the admissions process, allowing for deeper talent on each team,”

Where, oh where, may the strategically-allocated funds go?

“Same number” and “right-sized” and “smaller number” all conflict. A team that is not varsity, but “club” as she indicated during the first paragraph of her press release is not going to be deeper in talent, the elite will look elsewhere—good luck with having the boilerplate wash over the sports of Brown University when you go to recruit students, none of whom will want to be identified as a number.